09/12/12 Former Plymouth resident Katie Day Quinn knew she would have to find creative ways to fill her first second grade classroom with all of the teaching aides to make her students successful. Besides using funds allotted by the school in Charlestown, S.C., lugging in books that she had as a child, and borrowing from her fellow teachers, Quinn decided to start a blog asking for donations to purchase leveled reading books. She was able to get support from four donors in the first few weeks, but the donations were only at $50 and she needed a $1,000.

Quinn couldn’t have been more surprised when she opened her email during a layover in a Rhode Island airport to find that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was pledging a $1,000 to her project. Quinn’s project is just one of 2, 315 projects potentially reaching 232, 604 children that the Gates Foundation sponsored.

Only last week the books arrived. Quinn said, “I let the children put the books on the shelves. They couldn’t stop talking about how this was the first time they had new books.” She added, “They kept smelling the books and saying they didn’t know what a new book smell was like.” In addition to the series “Explorers Travel the World Through Reading, she was able to purchase books to read aloud during group times, a number of high interest books that appeal to boys, and a subscription of 15 copies of Time Magazine for Kid.

  She said the reading levels of her 21 students range from one child with a fourth grade reading level to another who doesn’t know the names of letters or numbers.

Quinn is teaching under the Teach For America (TFA) program. The non-profit organization provides extra staffing in both rural and urban setting for schools where there are a number of high-risk children in low-income communities. Members of TFA are under contract for a period of at least two years. TFA was founded by Wendy Koop after she developed the idea to help eliminate educational inequality in the United States. Since it’s beginning in 2000, more the 20,000 members have worked in the project.

TFA members do not necessary have be to be certified teachers, but do receive extensive training prior to being placed in classrooms. Quinn holds a degree in Political Science.

Quinn said she began thinking over her original choice to graduate from Butler University and go on to law school in her junior year. She said, “I was working at C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network) and started re-evaluating how I could contribute the most.” It was at the same time that her brother Eric was diagnosed with tumor and had to have delicate surgeries and extensive treatments. She said, “I started thinking over my life.”

  Quinn’s husband Brendan moved to South Carolina on faith that he could find employment. Fortunately, he was soon hired to teach math at a middle school.

Although they both miss being near friends and family, they use SKYPE internet calls on most days to keep in touch.

Quinn said, “If I could pass on anything to my students, it would be to not be afraid to do what you want to do.”

Carol Anders Correspondent